PGA Tour Fantasy Golf: Previewing the 2012 Open Championship
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We're in for a major week, pun intended. Given that there are only four (official) majors on the PGA Tour, each weekend is roughly equivalent to one round of postseason action in one of the other major sports. In other words, this is potentially a bigger deal than Ron Burgundy.
This holds true in fantasy golf as well. The prize money is bigger. The points are sometimes doubled, or even tripled. There are individual fantasy pools just for the Open Championship. Doing well here is very important in season-long events. Piece of cake, right?
Please note, we will also be making some picks for the True South Classic this week, as it is a secondary PGA Tour event. The tournament will be held at Annandale Golf Club in Madison, Mississippi. The defending champion is Chris Kirk. The winner will take home $648,000 and 250 FedEx Cup Points.
Our primary tournament this week is the Open Championship (commonly referred to as the "British Open"). The tournament will be held at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club, in Lytham St. Annes, Lancashire, England. Darren Clarke is the defending champion. The winner will take home $1,452,078 and 600 FedEx Cup Points.
Despite my earlier optimism, this is not a "piece of cake" to figure out. Royal Lytham is a links-style golf course with 205 bunkers. That is not a typo. There are 205 sand traps on the golf course. And these aren't the bunkers you find at your local course. Some of them are nasty pot bunkers that can prevent you from being able to advance the ball towards the green.
How do we choose who we are going to use this week? Very carefully and probably incorrectly, but we will try. This isn't the week to blindly select golfers. Look at the recent major tournament winners. The last nine winners were all first-time major champions. The last fifteen majors have been won by fifteen different golfers.
What are we looking for this week?
- Course management
- Bogey avoidance
- Accuracy off the tee
- The ability to hit a ton of greens
- Overall ball-striking ability
- Bounce-back performance
- Overall putting
Yep, we're looking for quite a bit. There is no perfect formula here, much like a U.S. Open. You want to select golfers who can score, but don't make a ton of mistakes. The more aggressive players may find themselves in more trouble than they can come back from. In addition to the many bunkers, the rough here is brutal and we will even see balls lost in it. It's long and thick and it will punish you for missing the fairway.
Golfers that have been playing well are nice, but not totally necessary. The Open Championship was also held here back in 2001, so there are a few golfers in the field with experience here, but the course has been changed somewhat since then.
Without further ado.....
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Matt Kuchar (Starting)
Kuchar has been great in 2012 and very good in the major tournaments so far. He hasn't found much success in the British Open, but that could change this year.
Statistically, he's all you could hope for this week. On the PGA Tour, Kuchar ranks 32nd in Driving Accuracy, 13th in Greens in Regulation, 13th in Sand Save Percentage, 22nd in Ball Striking, 10th in Scrambling, 2nd in Scrambling form the Rough and 19th in 3-Putt Avoidance.
He's also ranked 2nd in Par 4 Performance, which is important here and he ranks 27th in Proximity to Hole from Sand which is also very important this weekend.
Luke Donald (Bench)
Donald is the No. 1 ranked golfer in the World Golf Rankings for a reason. He's a really good golfer. In every tournament that is NOT a major. He has literally played his worst golf in the biggest tournaments. But he's a really good golfer. That makes him a bench play, not a start here.
Going off of stats alone would lead you to think that Donald should be great here. On the PGA Tour, he ranks 17th in Driving Accuracy, 4th in Strokes Gained - Putting, 1st in GIR Percentage from Fairway Bunkers, 19th in All-Around Ranking, 1st in Scrambling, 1st in Scrambling from the Rough and 24th in 3-Putt Avoidance.
Also worth using: Zach Johnson, Jim Furyk and Sergio Garcia
Lee Westwood (Starting)
If I were to create my own overall "Power Rankings" for the Open, I would place Westwood at the very top. He's a very trendy pick this week, and for good reason. He's got an excellent all-around game and he has performed well in major tournaments recently, despite his failure to win one of them.
On the PGA Tour, Westwood ranks 2nd in Greens in Regulation Percentage, 3rd in Sand Save Percentage, 23rd in Total Driving, 2nd in All-Around Ranking, 7th in Ball Striking, 32nd in Bounce Back, 13th in Par 4 Performance and 4th in Proximity to the Hold from Sand.
Justin Rose (Starting)
It feels like every time I've started Rose this season he's under-performed, but he's actually been a very good golfer in 2012. There's no reason that should change this week. Rose finished T8 at the Masters and T21 at the U.S. Open.
On the PGA Tour, Rose ranks 34th in Driving Accuracy, 4th in Greens in Regulation, 11th in Sand Save Percentage, 5th in All-Around Ranking, 5th in Greens in Regulation Percentage from Fairway Bunkers, 15th in Ball-Striking, 11th in Scrambling, 5th in Par 4 Performance and 4th in Scrambling from the Rough.
Ernie Els (Bench)
Els isn't going to look like that great of an option this weekend. Yet, he might very well be in the hunt on Sunday. Els finished T3 here back in 2001, so he's had success on this track. He's been excellent in the British Open with twelve top-10 finishes in his career.
Statistically, Els isn't overly impressive. But he ranks 19th in Scoring Average, 31st in Scrambling and 29th in 3-Putt Avoidance.
Tiger Woods (Bench)
I can't tell a lie here. Whenever I start Tiger, he's lousy, when I use him as a bench option, he's great. So don't say that I didn't warn you. There's a reason that Tiger Woods currently sits atop the FedEx Cup leaderboard. It's because he's been a very good professional golfer this year. But not in the majors. While he's been a very good PGA pro, he still isn't up to his previous personal standards.
Woods has been amongst the best statistical golfers on the PGA Tour as well as the money leaders. Woods ranks 11st in Greens in Regulation Percentage, 22nd in Strokes Gained - Putting, 5th in Total Driving, 10th in All-Around Ranking, 3rd in Ball Striking, 23rd in Scrambling, and 12th in Par 4 Performance.
Also worth using: Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy and Hunter Mahan
Padraig Harrington (Starting)
Harrington is generally pretty good at the British Open. As a matter of fact, he's won the tournament twice. That alone doesn't make him worth starting, but his solid play as of late does. In his last four PGA events, Harrington has finished no worse than T15. He finished T37 here back in 2001.
Good thing for Harrington that we're not basing this on stats alone, although he does have his strengths. On the PGA Tour, Harrington ranks 5th in Scoring Average, 26th in All-Around Ranking, 28th in Scrambling, 8th in Bounce Back and 1st in Proximity to the Hole from Sand.
Jason Dufner (Bench)
Dufner has been awesome in 2012. He's won two tournaments and played well at both the Masters (T24) and the U.S. Open (T4). Dufner has three top-4 finishes in his last three events and he's won two of his last five events.
On the PGA Tour, Dufner ranks 16th in Driving Accuracy, 6th in Greens in Regulation Percentage, 3rd in All-Around Ranking, 26th in Sand Save Percentage, 3rd in Ball Striking, 16th in Scrambling and 32nd in Bounce Back.
Also worth using: Francesco Molinari and Graeme McDowell
Picks for The Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge
The Open Championship (Event 1)
Group One: Lee Westwood
Group Two: Zach Johnson
Group Three: Padraig Harrington
Group Four: Tim Clark
True South Classic (Event 2)
Group One: Ken Duke
Group Two: Dicky Pride
Group Three: Lee Janzen
Group Four: Shaun Micheel
Picks for ESPN Best Ball Majors
Golfer 1 - Lee Westwood
Golfer 2 - Matt Kuchar
Golfer 3 - Bo Van Pelt
Golfer 4 - Tim Clark
Weekly Survivor/Eliminator/Earnings Leagues (Full Season)
The Open Championship
I've used a decent amount of the "big dogs", so I don't have as much to choose from here as I would like. There are a few options that jump out at me: Sergio Garcia, Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington and Francesco Molinari.
Of that group I am eliminating Tiger and Ernie Els. I'd rather save Tiger for a different venue and while I like Els this week, I don't think he's got a real shot to win the tournament.
That leaves me with two European golfers to choose from. I like both this week, but due to his very strong history in this event, I'm going to go with Padraig Harrington. Not to mention the fact that Harrington has been playing very well as of late.
True South Classic
The three favorites here are Brednon de Jonge, Blake Adams and Ken Duke. I've already used de Jonge, so he's out. That leaves Blake Adams and Ken Duke.
I don't plan on using either golfer anywhere else, so there's no issue there. Adams has been playing very steadily lately, having made the cut in his last nine events. Ken Duke has been move inconsistent, but with more upside as he's managed two T7 finishes in his last three events.
Neither golfer gives me a strong feeling, so I am going to go with Blake Adams based on his strong recent play and his T9 finish here last season.
Already Used: Bryce Molder, Steve Marino, Bill Haas, D.A. Points, Martin Laird, Hunter Mahan, K.J. Choi, Rory McIlroy, Jarrod Lyle, Lee Westwood, Henrik Stenson, Charl Schwartzel, John Senden, Bubba Watson, Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald, Bo Van Pelt, Fredrik Jacobson, Charles Howell III, Jim Furyk, Justin Rose, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson, Ben Curtis, Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Ryan Moore, Ryan Palmer, Brendon de Jonge and Sean O'Hair.
Weekly Survivor/Eliminator/Earnings Leagues (Season 2)
The Open Championship
None of the options that I would seriously consider have been used yet. I said earlier that I would rank Lee Westwood as my No. 1 golfer here this week. So why wouldn't I use him if he was available to me? Going with Lee Westwood to win his first major this weekend.
True South Classic
The same logic as above applies, but I do have Brendon de Jonge available to me. That does actually make a difference to me. In his last four tournaments, de Jonge has three top-20 finishes. In his last two appearances at this event, de Jonge has finished T13 and T3. I see no reason not to go with Brendon de Jonge this week.
Already Used: Jim Furyk, Webb Simpson and Steve Stricker
Good luck to all this week. If you have any comments or questions, please use the comments feature or reach out to me on Twitter.
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